For the last 24 summers, Meltdown festival has allowed the Southbank Centre to hand over its programming calendar to a class of people hardly famed for their organisational skills – musicians. Luckily the impressive list of Meltdown curators (including David Bowie, John Peel and Yoko Ono) have always pulled through, making the festival an annual cultural highlight of the city. M.I.A. is curator of this year’s Meltdown (June 9-18).
The fearless singer and artist had promised to ‘redefine the concept of a melting pot’ with the programming of this year’s festival. So, unlike previous years where household names like Radiohead, Nina Simone and Grace Jones took the focus, the line-up for 2017 is temptingly underground. And young. And global. From the scorch of Parisian afro-trap star MHD to the whiplash of pioneering Californian queer rapper Mykki Blanco, Meltdown 2017 looks set to be a winner.
Who’s playing at Meltdown festival 2017?
Winners of the Mercury Prize in 2014, Edinburgh hip hop three-piece Young Fathers – Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham ‘G’ Hastings – have continued to create a mutant blend of lush and aching post-punk, afrobeat and kitchen sink rap.
Signed to M.I.A.’s label, Afrikan Boy often explores his Nigerian heritage and childhood in Woolwich with frank humour. The only shock is that this 28-year-old’s breakout track ‘One Day I Went to Lidl’ is now ten years old.
It was only a year ago that French rapper Mohammed Sylla started uploading self-made videos on YouTube, often revolving around dance moves to gleeful tracks in which he raps in French and West African languages. He has since racked up hundreds of millions of views.
This twenty-year-old Swedish rapper has already experienced the full gamut of fame – from becoming a viral sensation at 16 to a heavy personal drug addiction. He has returned with more hazy rhymes over undeniably catchy computer game beats.
This date will mark the reggae singer’s first live show in the UK; his ethereal reggae tracks led the roots revival in the mid-noughties and his velour-soft voice has the ability to melt the Royal Festival Hall.
M.I.A. first approached Jamaican dancehall singer Daps to collaborate on her recent album ‘AIM’ after hearing his track ‘Shabba Madda Pot’, a jump-up celebration of Shabba Ranks’s mum’s cooking.
Toronto twosome Crystal Castles offer cool-kid lo-fi synth-pop, ranging from dreamy to ferocious. Edith Frances’ silky vocals and sexy style go a long way to make a case for the group’s electro-boom staying power.
M.I.A. approached the prodigous French electronic artist on Twitter last year, asking to collaborate. He will perform to fans and passing tourists on the Riverside Terrace.
Awful Records Takeover
Details are slim on exactly who will be DJing at this after-hours party in the Clore Ballroom but the hugely influential Atlanta label Awful Records are at the helm and label founder Father will perform.
Brooklyn rapper Young M.A burst onto the US hip hop scene with her balls-out debut ‘OOOUUU’ last year. Much attention has been drawn to her being openly gay but her tough, bragging, raspy delivery is what’s winning fans internationally.
Genesis, a half-Swedish, half-Tamil rapper, is a natural protégée of M.I.A. Signed to brilliant Atlanta label Awful Records, she brings a punk, feminist and overtly sexual pulse to electronic hip hop.
Outrageous, confrontational and vulnerable, Blanco is simply a huge, throbbing ball of talent. His popularity has been bubbling for some time and anyone unsure should check out 2016 track ‘Loner’.
M.I.A. will close the festival by bringing special guests on stage for one of her trademark explosive performances, that’s bound to sprint through her many hits including ‘Paper Planes’, ‘Bad Girls’ and ‘Borders’.
Find more London music festivals
You haven't 'done' Soho until you've been to a gig at The Borderline, simple as. This much-loved venue with a loyal audience has given a platform to countless bands and artists throughout its long history – stretching back over 20 years – and is still going strong today, showcasing both new and revered talent. Head in for a gig on any given day and you could find yourself moshing to rock and metal, getting busy on the dancefloor at an indie club night or perhaps soaking up the sweet tone of a folk, blues or Americana singer-songwriter. It can get a little cramped when the 275-ish capacity fills up, but that's all the better for creating an intimate atmospherewhere between artist and audience, and means you won't have to worry about elbowing your way to the front past thousands of people. A Soho musical institution. We were there when The Borderline reopened in March 2017: